The actor Jussie Smollett has blasted a Cook County prosecutor for including his text messages that contained a racial and homophobic slur in his testimony.
On Tuesday, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office argued that Smollett could face up to 20 years in prison for sending a threatening letter to his Fox show Empire. Prosecutors said Smollett planned the attack so that he could be paid to play the victim and portray himself as a victim.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, did not have an attorney in court. He made a short statement outside court after court was adjourned until Thursday when the trial will resume.
Flanked by two attorneys and his publicist, Smollett said: “From the beginning, I have denied these allegations. Today I continue to deny them,” he said.
Later he took to social media to add: “They are continuing to twist my words around to fit their narrative but the one thing I will not be is silent. I would like to say thank you to everyone who has offered support. I have to be strong for my family at this time.”
After prosecutors finished presenting their case Tuesday, Smollett said outside court: “I’m not the same man that I was a few weeks ago. I’m completely traumatized by everything that’s transpired.”
The actor, who turned down a plea deal Tuesday that would have left him with a suspended sentence, added: “I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone, but especially not to me, because I understand the impact of these words.”
Prosecutors said the actor sent a letter to Empire set demanding actor Taraji P Henson’s character Jamal marry him in January. Then he told police he was attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago on 2 January who tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.
The state’s attorney’s office on Tuesday called Smollett an “unrepentant liar” and said, “He knew he was making it up”.
Prosecutors said Smollett talked about the incident on a subway and told an Empire writer. But when they told him they might need him to describe the attack to his story, he instructed the writer to say he wanted money.
Prosecutors said Smollett blamed the police and the “deep state” – referring to the federal investigation of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn – for the delay in his arrest.
In a prepared statement Monday, Smollett said “no one was more frustrated, angrier, or felt victimized more than me” about the delay in his arrest. He added: “I believe the MAGA movement would be much stronger without me.”
Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney on Monday expressed confidence in the actor but apologized for a role he said in hindsight “was played too broadly”.
Smollett, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Jamal Lyon, is appearing in the third season of the prime-time musical drama.
Jussie Smollett’s nemesis is back to the lectern – just in time Read more
The prosecution started with DNA results showing that Smollett had sent a letter to the set. According to prosecutors, the actress Grace Gealey, who plays Smollett’s girlfriend, learned that two brothers, who are Smollett’s brothers, were being released after they had been arrested but released without charges.
Prosecutors said they sat the women down and questioned them about the letter, and they provided the letter to police on 2 February.
Prosecutors said one of the brothers told them that Smollett had hired him to work on Empire. The brothers testified that Smollett also paid them to bleach Smollett’s house and orchestrate the attack. The brothers wore gloves during the attack, the prosecutor said.
A day after the attack, police said, the brothers took $3,500 from Smollett’s bank account. He is accused of writing a $900 check to one of the brothers.